Delta hits a $40mm NRA speed bump in Georgia

Over the weekend Delta Air Lines chose to discontinue its group discount rate for the NRA. It joined a couple dozen other companies cutting those ties, but the pushback for Delta, headquartered in Atlanta, was more significant than the others.

As a follow-up to Saturday morning’s announcement the company issued a statement attempting to satisfy those on both sides of the fight.

Delta’s decision reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings. Out of respect for our customers and employees on both sides, Delta has taken this action to refrain from entering this debate and focus on its business. Delta continues to support the 2nd Amendment.

This is not the first time Delta has withdrawn support over a politically and emotionally charged issue. Last year, Delta withdrew its sponsorship of a theater that staged a graphic interpretation of “Julius Caesar” depicting the assassination of President Trump. Delta supports all of its customers but will not support organizations on any side of any highly charged political issue that divides our nation.

That statement seems to have pissed off more people than it pleased.

Those previously satisfied with the move as a political statement suddenly found that the company really was trying to not make a statement at all. And it opened up many questions about what other issues might have “both sides” where taking a stand could adversely affect business. The company has historically been a vocal supported of Pride parades, for example. Will it now avoid taking a position on that subject?

And then there are those who were otherwise upset with the decision and who see the “middle ground” statement as insufficiently generous. One of those happens to be Casey Cagle, Lt. Governor of Georgia. He’s pretty pissed, and it could cost Delta millions of dollars.

Fuel tax exemptions for airlines come an go. Delta last had a significant one in Georgia in 2015, though that ended badly. The carrier is currently pushing the Georgia legislature to bring back something similar to those tax breaks, this time to the tune of $40mm annually. And progress on that front was pretty solid. Right up until this past weekend’s events.

The carrier now appears to be facing a state official willing to operate on a single-issue platform, tying corporate taxes to a group discount for members of a lobbying organization.

Who knows if he’ll stick to that position or not long term. Or whether Delta will really lose out on the $40 million. And, if it does, whether it considers that a fair price for taking the political position it is denying that it took.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I don’t know Casey Cagle, but I think it’s offensive for a lawmaker to demand a discount from a private business for any particular organization. Reebok used to give discounts to AARP members, but has discontinued doing so. I’m not seeing Mr. Cagle threatening Reebok.

    1. It is also probably illegal. So he’s going to have a problem there, assuming anyone chooses to enforce those laws.

    2. I find it more offensive that 40 millions dollars of tax payer money is given to a private for profit corporation.

  2. The First Amendment prevents the government from punishing private entities based on their political views. This unlawful threat could cost Casey Cagle more.

  3. Cagle is runnng for Governor again this year. Otherwise he probably would have cared less. Unfortunately GA has very strong gun lobby.

    1. Yet it is being proved why they had to try and come up with a gutless response, since the Lt. Governor (Who is actively running for the top office), is actively looking to screw Delta over this.

    2. I dunno. Making this into a campaign issue may help him or hurt him. But turning it into an even more political issue had virtually no upside potential to Delta. It wasn’t going to bring back any of the theoretical customers lost and it certainly isn’t going to please anyone who wanted the removal of the discount to be an active statement. In many ways it was the least good choice possible.

      It was a political decision. Trying to make it appear apolitical is a losing battle.

      Or maybe it was a mastermind plan to get the guy to do something stupid and find himself in legal trouble. But that seems very, very unlikely.

    3. Having grown up in Georgia, this spat helps him. He’s fighting against corporate liberal secularists and standing up for “Conservative Christian” values

    4. In that context, Nick, sure. But there is a high probability this action is illegal. Hard to say with certainty that’s a smart campaign move.

    5. Unless they lock him in jail, it will help. Anything less and he gets to say that the activist judges are trying to push liberal secular values and oppose their “Christian” way of life.

    1. Guess that depends on how many nra members use the discount. I’d venture a guess the amount of people willing to send revenue DLs way over this will be smaller than the blowback from members boycotting or willing to use the discount

    2. Shane: I have no doubt that DL knows exactly what the revenue directly tied to the discount was. And extrapolating that to other trips by those same customers or their families is pretty easy.

      Sure, some are saying they will boycott based on this. But I’ve seen scores of similar calls to boycott airlines in the past. None really amounted to anything. Just look at UA and the Dr. Dao incident. All that outrage and no one really changed booking habits. The fact that no other airline offers anything better also doesn’t hurt Delta’s position.

  4. This PR statement by DL is awful on so many levels.

    They should have had issued a simple and sweet statement stating they support the 2nd amendment and citizens’ rights to bear arms but do not support certain extreme stances of the NRA. Simple and concise. If they are too worried about how this would be reacted then issue nothing at all.

    Companies need to stand for what they believe in and stick with it.

    1. Casey Cagle’s illegal conduct in this situation may have ramifications in the Amazon 2.0 selection process costing the state of Georgia’s prospect of landing this opportunity.

  5. Two can play at that game. Delta can certainly begin moving their hub to other airports. That would hurt Georgia a whole heck of a lot more than Delta.

    1. Delta isn’t moving its hub. It isn’t even going to shift capacity elsewhere. That would be a stupid financial move.

  6. how do you define “lose out” when it’s something they don’t need and aren’t entitled to in the first place?

  7. This is not a political issue. It is not conservative nor liberal. We Americans have a major SOCIAL problem. If you think it is normal that all children, from little ones to HS and College, find it necessary to go thru “active shooter” training, or that we have turned our theater’s , country western music festivals, schools into shooting galleries, something is wrong with you…….I could care less what party you are from. I am retired law enforcement. I can tell you it is not a mental illness problem. Most other western nations have the same mental health rates we here in America have and yet they have pretty much non existent slaughter incidents like we do. What is the difference????? We have easy access to guns and high powered guns. That is not a political statement. Just fact. Delta needs to stand their ground. They should not be able to be threatened or bullied.

  8. $40 million dollars? That’s a tax break? Shoot, Marriott got $300 million alone for opening a single hotel in Colorado. This is disingenous lip service. If the Govenor is going to take this position, he needs to put his money where his mouth is and cause real financial pain for Delta.

    Hopefully Delta didn’t withdrawal NRA support on a whim. The company should be prepared to go to the end in support of its values, including relocating it’s largest hub and headquarters to a state whose leadership doesn’t support the NRA’s infanticidal agenda.

  9. They will start moving flights and growing other hubs. Watch them. The meeting discounts are NOT huge-majority are issued by agencies-so think 2-5% and up to 12% before taxes on the fare. NRA gets bonuses the more members that buy tickets and the credits translate into elite status, free club memberships, upgrades and free tickets for NRA members-that’s why the NRA is pissed y’all. They couldn’t give two shits.

    It’s not about the discount it’s the perception. The Georgia government is doing this and attempting to hit DL in the wallet out of proportion to the actual loss the NRA discount is because they perceive it as an attack on their alleged values and beliefs.

    DL can easily down size ATL. They can gear up in DTW and MSP. And this tax break that Georgia wants to use as a hammer to get what they want for the NRA?
    That $ value they hit DL with with have the cut your nose off to spite your face effect. They lose the landing fees DL Pays, the revenue and maintenance they pay on ATL, the employer taxes, job loss of DL employees-transferring, as well as the job losses from other companies that depend on DL and DL level of traffic there.

    It’s poorly thought out-my father would say the person that thought it up wasn’t thinking with his brain but somewhere lower.

    DL can and will leave if it actually even feels the hit-but it’s not going to be a blip to them. Georgia-well it’s about votes and staying in power-really nothing else.

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